NYT Covers Obama’s Address, Ignores Original Speaker

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on May 16, 2012

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Directions

-Read the excerpt below from the MRC.org and mediaite.com.
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

Adapted from a posts at MRC.org on 5/15 and mediaite.com on 3/4/12:
In their article: “In Graduation Speech to Women, Obama Leaps Into Gender Gap,” the New York Times reporters who covered President Obama’s commencement address at Barnard College (a woman’s college in Manhattan) did not mention the irony of supposedly feminist Obama bumping out the originally booked commencement speaker, the Times’ own executive editor Jill Abramson.  Ms. Abramson is the Times’ first female executive editor. She took over that role in 2011. (read the Times article here)

When Jill Abramson first accepted the invitation to give the commencement address, Barnard President Debora L. Spar announced with enthusiasm: “We have so many reasons to value Ms. Abramson’s place in history as the first woman to appear at the top of The New York Times masthead,” Spar said at the time. “From her early days as a reporter to her current post as the paper’s executive editor, she has been unfailing in her convictions and a true inspiration. I am certain that our graduates will be energized by her words and personal story.”

The Hill’s Amie Parnes reports that “the White House called the college in recent days and offered up Obama as the commencement speaker and the college promptly accepted.”

President Obama bumped the scheduled speaker, New York Times‘ executive editor Jill Abramson, the first female executive editor in the Times’ history.

“This is an extraordinary honor for Barnard, and we are thrilled to welcome President Obama for this important moment in the lives of our graduates and their families,” Barnard President Spar said in a press release. “His commitment to empowering women is so meaningful to our students, who aspire to lead and make their mark on the world. No doubt, the President’s words will make this year’s Commencement truly unforgettable.”

Questions

1.  What type of bias is displayed in the New York Times news report on President Obama’s commencement address?

2. The Times reported that President Obama:

  • exhorted the female graduates to go out and “fight for a seat at the head of the table”
  • told the graduates that a lack of female lawmakers in Congress was “one reason we’re actually re-fighting long-settled battles over women’s rights” 
  • said the shortage of female chief executives at major companies was “one reason many workplaces still have outdated policies”

Should the reporters also have included in the article the fact that President Obama bumped out the first female executive editor of the NY Times as commencement speaker to give this address?  Explain your answer.


Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.
























Answer(s)

1. Bias by omission – they ignored the fact that President Obama was talking about women’s rights, but he bumped out as speaker a woman who has made a historic breakthrough at the NY Times.

2.  Opinion question. Answers vary.